26. A new mom's guide to the Wonder Weeks - The reason your baby is cranky, clingy, and crying more than usual
Is your baby cranky, clingy, and crying more than usual? They might be in a Wonder Week!
Babies go through the same mental leaps around the same time, which is the whole theory behind Wonder Weeks.
Listen to this episode for a quick overview of the Wonder Weeks leaps to help you prepare for your baby’s next leap!
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Wonder Weeks – What are mental leaps?
Wonder Weeks is the theory that all babies go through the same mental developmental milestones around the same time. These milestones are called mental leaps. With each mental leap, your baby learns new skills. All of the sudden, there are so many changes with your baby’s brain, and they’re processing things they’ve never been able to grasp before.
During these leaps they might be clingy, cranky, and crying more than usual. Learning new things is hard. It really wears them out! This is all normal and to be expected!
Whenever Genny was going through a fussy phase, without fail I would check my Wonder Weeks app and sure enough, she was in a leap! It just gave me such peace of mind knowing that I’m not crazy, she’s seemingly upset for no reason, but in reality it’s just a normal part of development. As a new mom, that reassurance is so important to have, especially on those days when you feel like nothing you’re doing is working.
When are the Wonder Weeks leaps?
Remember that this is an average, and your baby might have a leap one week before or even one week after these approximated leaps. Every baby is different! So now, I’ll briefly walk you through each leap (there are 10 total), but if you want the full scoop you’ve gotta get the app or the book.
Leap 1: Changing Sensations
The 1st leap happens at about 5 weeks. This is the leap of changing sensations. With this leap, things are rapidly maturing – like your baby’s metabolism, intestines, and sensory organs. You might notice that they’re starting to actually push their gas/poop out now, whereas before it had been more passive. Your baby will also be much more interested in the things around them, and they’ll be able to see better, beyond a distance of 20-30 cm. Your baby will become a little more social and will respond to you and other people when you interact with them. The last big development is that your sweet little baby will be able to produce tears for the first time – which is so sad to see them cry big kid tears, but it’s all just a part of them growing up! scoop you’ve gotta get the app or the book.
Leap 2: Patterns
The 2nd leap happens around 8 weeks. This is the leap of patterns. Quote: “From this leap, your baby no longer experiences the world as one entirety, as ‘soup’. They start to differentiate fixed ‘patterns’ in the soup.” For example: your baby will discover their hands. They’ll check them out, twist them and turn them to see what they’re all about. Next, your baby will lose many automatic reflexes and they’ll start to actually feel the things that they do with their body. As they move, they might look a little stiff, like they’re a little robot. (The cutest little robot!)
Leap 3: Smooth Transitions
The 3rd leap happens around 12 weeks. This is the leap of smooth transitions. You’ll notice that your baby’s movements become a little less stiff and a little more smooth. They’ll also start to play with their vocal sounds, which is so cute and fun to see as a parent!
Leap 4: Events
The 4th leap happens around 19 weeks. This is the leap of events. Up until this leap, your baby could only perceive one smooth transition. Now, they experience events with all of their senses, and can experience a sequence of smooth transitions. Some examples of this might be bouncing a ball, waving their hand, or grabbing things with their hands. During this leap, your baby will begin to love singing nursery rhymes with some hand gestures!
Leap 5: Relationships
The 5th leap happens around 26 weeks. This is the leap of relationships. How is one thing related to another? For now, your baby will understand simple relationships. Think: “in or out, up and down, in or on,” that sort of thing. Your baby might also begin to cry when they see you get farther away from them. It’s a little bit hard on you, but it’s all part of their development!
Leap 6: Categories
The 6th leap happens around 37 weeks. This is the leap of categories. For example, your baby will learn that a horse is not a dog, a black and white cat isn’t a cow, and so on. This means you’ll want to narrate things and compare things with your baby to help them understand these different categories. Your baby will also get a kick out of going outside to explore the world!
Leap 7: Successions
The 7th leap happens around 46 weeks. This is the leap of successions. Your baby will learn to recognize & control the flow of events. For example, eating some food with a spoon means: grab the spoon, put some food on it, move it towards your face, and put it in your mouth. Your baby won’t be able to do this whole sequence of events by themselves just yet, but they can understand 2-3 parts in a row. If you were to let your baby try eating with a spoon right now, they’d definitely make a big mess! Even with the mess, you can still let them practice, just make sure you have some patience, and protect your floors with a towel for easier clean-up.
Leap 8: Programs
The 8th leap happens around 55 weeks. This is the leap of programs. Your baby will now be able to understand a full sequence of events! They will understand the whole process of eating with a spoon. Another great example is that they know the whole process of washing a dish. Take the dirty dish to the sink, grab the sponge, get soap and water, scrub the dish, rinse off the dish, and put it in the drying rack. Your baby is going to love “helping” you with these little things, and it’s good for them to practice along with you! I know it gets messy, but the payoff is huge when you let them work alongside you.
Leap 9: Principles
The 9th leap happens around 64 weeks. This is the leap of principles. And this part is quoted straight from the Wonder Weeks website: “For the first time, your child is now able to change programs he’s learned so far.” They’ll love to play with this and experience the consequences of their choices. Your baby will start to do all kinds of “physical antics”: They’ll be excited to play outdoors, become more skillful with language, imitate others and role play, think ahead, bug you until they get their way, and so many other fun things that come along with this leap!
Leap 10: Systems
The 10th leap happens around 75 weeks. This is the leap of systems. At this point, your now toddler will be able to perceive and handle systems. They can choose how they want to act, whether that’s honest, helpful, patient, or even the opposite of those things. You will start to see the beginnings of your little one’s conscience. You might also notice that your little one will start testing their ability to manipulate you! I always say that it’s impossible to spoil a baby, and up until this point that has been true. Now with a toddler, you can 100% spoil them and should be mindful of upholding boundaries and teaching them values and norms that they’ll carry with them through life.
And with that, the 10 leaps are over and you’ll have a full-fledged toddler. Good luck!
Wonder Weeks Chart (Quick Overview)
If you’d like a quick and easy chart that shows you all the leaps at a glance, I made this for you!
How long do mental leaps last?
Some leaps are longer than others, but a mental leap will typically last between 3-6 weeks. These weeks are very challenging for both you and your baby. It’s important to remember that this is temporary and it will pass with time.
I really love the Wonder Weeks app because it is so helpful and reassuring. I know that when we were going through these leaps with Genny, it gave me great peace of mind to know that A) I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and B) that there were things I could do to help her feel better and to help us get through it.
The Wonder Weeks App
If you’re loving these insights about your baby, then you should definitely download the Wonder Weeks app.
You’ll get notified when your baby is about to enter a leap, information about what new skills they’re learning, behaviors that you can expect from them during these leaps, and ways to help them through it.